Finland says it is close to concluding a defence cooperation agreement with the US, the latest in a series of steps the formally neutral Nordic country has taken to bolster its security in the face of heightened Russian military activity.
The country’s defence minister, Jussi Niinistö, said he hoped the deal – incorporating joint military training, information sharing and research – would be signed before the US presidential election in November.
“It’s one of the reasons to have it done this autumn. But I’m certain we will continue to work together with either one of main candidates winning,” Niinisto told Reuters news agency. There was no immediate response from the Pentagon on a potential agreement.
The deal would provide a framework for increased cooperation between the armed forces of the two nations but would not involve any binding commitment for either country to come to the defence of the other. Finland signed a similar agreement with the UK in July.
Sweden, the other Nordic country to have remained outside Nato, signed a defence cooperation agreement with the US in June. Leaders from both Sweden and Finland also took part in a Nato summit last month in Warsaw, and their armed forces have taken part in Nato military exercises in the region as nervousness has grown around the Baltic over an increasing number of Russian military drills in the air and sea following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Both Nordic states have already signed agreements that would make it easier for them to host Nato troops in a crisis, and they contributed troops to the Nato mission in Afghanistan.